Since September, Kettle Moraine High School of Health Sciences (HS2) students met every week to study superbugs and antibiotic resistance, media influences on people and relationships, composting, and other public health issues with students from the Milwaukee Academy of Science (MAS) at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).
On April 22, students presented their research as part of MCW's Community Engagement Week.
The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) launched DRIVE (Delivering Research Innovation via Education) this year — a program pairing high school students from the Milwaukee Academy of Science (MAS) and the High School of Health Sciences (HS2) in Kettle Moraine School District with MCW scientists to engage in public health research.
The two charter schools came to the Medical College wondering how they could create experiences for students by utilizing the resources at MCW, according to Tim Sobotka, co-director of DRIVE.
'What a great idea to bring an urban charter school and a suburban charter school, that has essentially the same mission, and pretty much marry the two here at the medical college with the youth involved and taking their ideas, their concerns that are important to them, in their communities, in their generation and allowing scientists here to help drive their ideas,' Sobotka said.
DRIVE provides high school students with the opportunity to identify a public health issue in the Milwaukee community, conduct scientific research aimed at addressing the issue and draft a project proposal with the possibility of submitting for grant funding.
In its first year the program has been more successful than Sobotka imagined it would be.
'There were challenges, but the students came through in the end — and that's life,' Sobotka added. 'Things are not always going to happen the way you want it, but the students made it happen.'
The overall aim of the partnership is connecting high school students with real scientific work and authentic educational experiences that highlight a path to postsecondary education and career training. DRIVE illustrates to students that careers in research, medicine or public health are attainable, inspiring and rewarding.
The program also fosters collaboration between students from different backgrounds to encourage the exchange of thoughts and ideas from a variety of perspectives. Each research group is comprised of students from both MAS and HS2 along with a student adviser to provide expertise and counseling for the project.
The students are encouraged to utilize MCW resources and laboratories, and to collaborate with MCW faculty and staff to enhance their research projects. By the conclusion of the program, each group is required to submit a project proposal, craft a blog post outlining their respective projects and create a poster board display centered on their findings.
To HS2 English teacher Margaret Mulqueen, the biggest impact of the program is giving students the experience of working in a true research field.
'We have a lot of science classes, we do a ton of science labs, but this is hands-on research with a true primary investigator at the medical college,' said Mulqueen. 'More importantly they got to see how science is messy.'
In high school science labs, students are supposed to walk through certain procedures, make observations and for the most part have similar results. In DRIVE they learned that 'a lot of time there were no results,' or what they wanted to do had to be changed or adjusted, or they needed a different survey.
'Which is what I think is the biggest benefit, is to see how science isn't absolute perfection. It's a lot of trial and error,' Mulqueen said.
The DRIVE program allows students the opportunity to address issues of genuine concern in their communities by using scientific research and methodology.
Cora Hougard and Sayward Gohman-Kramer researched composting, why people don't compost, the negative aspects of landfills and how they affect communities, especially Milwaukee. They discovered inconvenience is the main reason restaurants don't compost. They worked with a community partner Compost Crusader, to offer a solution.
Hougard said she enjoyed learning about composting, how it relates to the community and 'seeing how we can implement something so local and that is so important to the earth.'
'It was so wonderful to be part of this at the Medical College because you really get to see what hands-on science is like, outside of the high school setting where it's very controlled,' said Gohman-Kramer. 'Here we get to design our own experiment and carry it out. It was really eye-opening.'
Theresa Kimball and Courtney Roofe worked with their MAS research partners on superbugs and antibiotic resistance. The research team wanted to educate people about antibiotic resistance to help them realize the importance of taking all antibiotics that are prescribed until they are gone.
Having Mulqueen look over their presentation, give advice and help make it understandable at all levels, 'was a great help,' Roofe said.
Kimball said it was interesting getting different perspectives on the project from their partners at MAS.
'Having different connections was important,' said Kimball.
The authentic experience gave students a rich understanding of the research process, Steve Plum, HS2 director said in the news release.
'We are grateful to have this wonderful opportunity,' said Plum. 'From these experiences, students have greater insight and vision into their academic future and career path.'